Scratch night how to: our top 5 tips

Our first Brighton Scratch night at The Marlborough Theatre last week went really well. We had a lovely audience, a great selection of work, and the artists got useful feedback. This will definitely become a regular event in our calendar.

We hadn’t run a scratch night before this one, and there were a lot of things we had to consider (or that we didn’t consider but will next time!). So, to help out any of you who’re planning a scratch night in the future we want to give you some advice. Here’s our list of the top 5 things to think about when planning your scratch night.

The Top 5 things to think about when planning your scratch night

Clown Funeral receiving feedback on stage at Witness Theatre's Brighton Scratch night 16th November 2016.
Clown Funeral receive feedback.

1.The feedback process.

This was really important for us and one of the first things we started thinking about when planning our night. A scratch night is only as useful as the feedback the artists get from the audience. Our event used the Critical Response Process developed by Liz Lerman to structure the feedback (post on this to come soon). You can structure the feedback however you want, or not at all. Some key things to consider are: what do the artists want to get from the feedback? Do they have specific questions, or are they happy for an open discussion with the audience? Might it be good to give the audience the chance to give non-verbal feedback?

2.Accessibility.

Is it important to you that the venue you run your scratch night in is wheelchair accessible? Embarrassingly this wasn’t something we took into consideration before choosing our venue. Only when a wheelchair user emailed to ask if the night would be accessible did we actively think about this. Unfortunately the Marlborough Theatre isn’t accessible at present. We now plan to consider accessibility for every event we plan in future and to run events in accessible venues wherever possible. Lesson learned.

3. Ticket prices. 

Ask yourself why you’re running the scratch night. Is it to raise money for your company, or is it to provide a platform for yourselves and other artists to share new work? For us it was about nurturing other artists. Raising money was a factor, but a secondary one. We chose a Pay As You Feel set up and that worked really well. If making money is more of a factor for you, consider how much you want to charge your audience. You don’t want money to be a barrier to people taking a risk on new work, we recommend no higher than £5 per ticket.

4. Programming. 

Don’t forget that by running a scratch night you are programming an evening of entertainment. You want the audience to feel satisfied with the range of work they’ve seen. You might want to consider setting a theme for the evening, so people apply with work that fits that theme. We didn’t do this, but we chose work that we felt linked well thematically and our audience really valued this.

5. Liaising with the venue. 

It’s easy to think of a scratch night as something that will come together on the day and doesn’t require much planning beforehand. But, it’s well worth your time to make sure you check in regularly with the venue and communicate your needs for the day.

Find out what technical support you’ll be given, if any. Who will be around to offer any help on the day? Will         someone be running your box office? Also make sure you check what needs the artists have. Are they expecting you to provide any technical equipment or simple set pieces? Make sure the venue has anything you need so you aren’t running around trying to find a microphone or a table on the day!

 Find out when you can have access to the space from and get there as soon as you can. We had 3 performances        of 15 minutes each, and spent a good 6 hours setting up the space and sorting out technical aspects of their               pieces.

Let us know your experiences

Have you run a scratch night before? How did it go, and what are your top 5 tips for anyone thinking of running one?  

 

 

Scratch night in Brighton: what is a scratch night?

On the 16th November we’re launching our first Brighton Scratch night at The Marlborough Theatre. We’d love to see you in the audience. But we realised that a lot of people might not know what a scratch night actually is. It’s one of those things that other theatremakers know, but if you’re not making theatre why would you know that? So, in the spirit of demystifying the theatre making process here’s our rundown of what a scratch night is:

Who’s it for? 

A scratch night is for artists with a new project in development who want some feedback. The idea can be at any stage in its process but is usually in the early stages. The artists should feel like audience feedback is what they need to move the idea forward. The scratch night should be a supportive platform for the artists. A place where they feel comfortable to put these new ideas forward.

What about the audience? 

That’s a great question. Although a scratch night is for the artists the audience is so important to the process. As an audience member you get to see a bunch of new theatre and learn about its development process. You also get to have your say on what you think works and what doesn’t. It’s fun to follow the progress of a show you’ve seen at scratch to see how it develops and what the final piece turns out like. Plus, as scratch nights tend to have very cheap tickets (or, like ours, are on a donation basis) audience members can check out unknown artists with no financial risk.

But surely not all feedback is going to be constructive? 

We think considering how feedback is given at a scratch night is one of the most important things. A few people have written and thought about this question, including this really engaging report from a Devoted & Disgruntled Event: Scratch Nights, Useful?  This talks about how the way feedback is dealt with is a very sensitive issue for artists. It suggests “written feedback gives audiences a chance to be honest, and perhaps more articulate”.

There’s value in written and spoken feedback and we’ll be using a mixture of both. We’re also going to incorporate elements from Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. This empowers the artist and puts a certain amount of responsibility on the audience members and the feedback they give. Read more about that process here. 

The conclusion

A scratch night is about risk. Audiences take a risk on seeing new work (but remember, no financial risk if you’re coming to ours). Artists take a risk by presenting very new ideas and offering it up for feedback. A scratch night can be so valuable to artists if done right. We hope ours will fall into this category, and that we’ll see you in the audience on the 16th. Remember, the event is free but ticketed. You can get your ticket here. 

Scratch Night in Brighton Artist Callout

Exciting news

We are launching our first Brighton scratch night at the lovely Marlborough Theatre in November and we’re so excited. The event is happening on Wednesday 16th November so be sure to save the date! It’s a supportive platform for artists to share or ‘scratch’ new work in development. A space that is open and friendly. Designed to be helpful for the artists in the continued development of their work.

We set up this scratch night as a way for artists to meet and support each other. We’re also keen to get local audiences engaged in the developmental stages of new work. We’re really looking forward to working with the Marlborough Theatre again. They supported our very first project ‘The Darkroom’ back in 2011/2012. It’ll be like returning home!

Artist Callout

We are currently looking for artists and companies to apply with pieces of no longer than 15 minutes  to be presented at this first scratch night. We’re looking for work for adult audiences, and as a company we have an interest in contemporary theatre and performance from a diverse range of practices and approaches.

If you have a new idea you’re working on and are at the stage where it needs a supportive audience and some feedback, then we’d love to hear from you.

To apply please fill in this online form (link below) by 5pm Wednesday 12th October 2016. You’ll be asked to tell us about yourself, the work you want to present and why this scratch will be useful to you.

https://goo.gl/forms/8u1RAALjEyXJqkNY2

If you experience any difficulty with the form or have any questions about the event please email us at info@witness-theatre.co.uk.

We’re looking forward to reading your applications! If you aren’t applying to take part then we’d love to have you along in the audience to support the artists. You can pay what you feel for this event but you will need a ticket. You can get yourself a ticket through the Marlborough Theatre website. 

Fetish Caesar show week!

We’re preparing for the final few rehearsals of fetish Julius Caesar before we open at The Warren: Studio 3, Brighton Fringe on Friday. We can’t believe it’s come round so fast. There are so many great discoveries and experiences we’ve had in rehearsal that we want to share with you. But we’ll get to that another time – Kelli and I are scheming to produce some vlogs so watch this space!

For now we’re very excited to share this video teaser trailer we’ve created for the show. We hope you enjoy it, let us know what you think and we hope you can make it to the show. Performance dates are 6 – 8 May and 30 May – 5 June, tickets can be bought online here.

 

Q&A with Jessica Cheetham of Spun Glass Theatre

Fellow Brighton based theatre maker Jessica Cheetham and I decided it’d be nice to interview each other about our respective Brighton Fringe productions. Jessica runs Spun Glass Theatre and is doing not one, but two (I know!) shows this May. Here’s what she had to say in answer to my questions.

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Image courtesy of Spun Glass Theatre

 

E: You’re doing two performances at Brighton Fringe this year, do the two have anything in common or are they wildly different?

J: Operation Love Story and Stamp are both storytelling shows but the way they tell stories is totally different. Operation Love Story uses humour and warmth to take the audience on an imaginative journey through one women’s tale of loneliness and match making – it’s an anti-rom-com. We use very little onstage to tell the story, it all comes to life through Marie Rabe’s gorgeous storytelling and Jennifer Williams’ inventive prose. Stamp takes it’s inspiration from the worlds of cabaret and television game shows so the audience are very important and they play with us to tell the story. So similar aims – to create an authentic relationship with the audience – but really different forms for each show which is very exciting and a good challenge for me as the director.

 E: Both performances are shows you’ve staged previously, very recently in the case of Stamp and a few years ago for Operation Love Story. How are you developing the shows for Brighton Fringe? 

J: Operation Love Story was originally staged by Jennifer herself and I helped her out with producing so this is the first time that Spun Glass Theatre as a company have staged the text. This means that we are able to bring our own artistic vision to the piece and develop it from Jenny’s fantastic performance a few years ago. Stamp has undergone a lot of changes since we performed at the Vault Festival in February – the set has been revamped, we have a new lighting design and we’re casting on Monday for two new performers to take the roles of Team Leaders. The audience will also have quite a different experience building on what we learnt up in Waterloo. 

 E: Stamp takes the form of a gameshow, and has been devised by the company. Can you tell me a bit about how you created the work, what your aims are with it, and what role the audience plays? 

J: Stamp has gone on a long journey of development since February 2015. We were originally broadly looking at gender and sexuality in performance and how those themes relate to individual performers. A Midsummer Night’s Dream provided some narrative inspiration and we became increasingly interested in popular culture and how gender stereotypes are disseminated through television and the media. The first showcase performance at The Marlborough Theatre comprised of snippets of material ideas. The snippet that stuck with me and blossomed into Stamp as we know it today was an extreme masculinity game show segment where performers had to compete – downing beer and eating chillies while putting together flat pack furniture. 

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Image courtesy of Lou Rogers.

 

Stamp is essentially an extension of that segment into a full show, asking what it means to be masculine or feminine today, telling stories in a competitive game show set up. Our host Helen White has a great sense of humour and command of the show, really guiding the audience’s experience. Our aims with the show are to attract a wide range of audience members, especially young people to see how they play the game and to entertain them. Audiences always leave commenting on how fun the experience of taking part is. 

 E: Operation Love Story is a piece of new writing, what originally drew you to the story and why did you want to direct it? 

J: I was originally drawn to Operation Love Story because of the warmth and deft storytelling structure of Jenny’s writing.  The character has many twists and turns of optimism and defeat and the text keeps you bobbing alongside her, desperate for everything to work out alright in the end. 

I wanted to direct the piece because I thought I could bring out the true depth of the character’s loneliness without making the piece too heavy and convoluted. I feel that Spun Glass Theatre’s performance style – understated, spontaneous and delicate – was exactly the match for this text. I also felt strongly that I could build up the imaginative world for the audience using minimal stage elements and some carefully chosen music tracks so that they fully step into Jennifer’s imagination for the hour.

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Operation Love Story image courtesy of Spun Glass Theatre

So there you have it. A little bit of inside info about Spun Glass Theatre’s process and their two Brighton Fringe shows. You can catch Stamp at The Warren: Studio 2 6-9 May, 21st May, 3rd & 5 June 8:45pm. Operation Love Story will be at The Warren: Studio 2, 6-8 May 4:45pm. You can get tickets for both at otherplacebrighton.co.uk.

 

 

Fetish Caesar photoshoot and more!

Last week was a busy and productive one for Julius Caesar based activity. Director Ellen Carr spoke to Boogaloo Stu on his Brighton Nights show on Brighton’s Juice FM, and we had a fun time in the photo studio taking some promotional photos!

We’ve popped the radio interview on Sound Cloud, and you can listen to it by clicking on the link below. Stu had some fab questions, so if you’re interested in finding out more about why and how we’re making this show have a listen. Especially if you want to hear about why this isn’t just going to be a ‘smut fest’!

 

For the photoshoot we created some poses around our three key themes of the taboo of fetish; gender binaries; and women in power. Here’s a selection of the results.

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And the last thing for now is that the crowdfunding campaign is still going strong, and running for one more week. We’ve got up to 50% funded, and now have this last week and a bit to raise the final 50%. There really are some great prizes for people who want to support the project at Brighton Fringe. As always we’d be really grateful if you could click through and take a look at the campaign.

Thanks for reading! x

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Julius Caesar at Brighton Fringe

Preparations are now totally underway for the return of Julius Caesar set in the world of a fetish club for Brighton Fringe in May. We’ve found a great bunch of people to work with on the show and are really excited to have such a big team behind us (there are 7 of us on the creative team!)

We’ve also completed a week of R&D  with our fab ensemble exploring our themes, key questions and playing around with the text and characters. Here are three fun little rehearsal diaries for those of you who’re curious about what we’ve been up to!

 

 

 

We’ve also recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for the project, and that’s actually a really great place to get more information on the show. We’d be really happy if you clicked through to take a look. We’ve got some great rewards for supporters of the campaign, including tickets to the show and membership to our Annual Friends of Witness Theatre scheme.

More updates soon as we continue our journey towards the fringe!

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Seeking a Stage Manager for fetish Julius Caesar

We are seeking a great stage manager to work on our contemporary interpretation of Julius Caesar set in a fetish club. Key themes explored are the taboo of fetish; gender binaries; and women and power. We first performed the show at the 2015 Brighton Fringe to sell out audiences and will be developing it for this year’s Fringe in May. Images from this performance can be found on the projects part of this site.

The show will take place in a flexible space with audience and performers being mixed together, the idea is to make it feel like an immersive club space for the audience.

We’re looking for a stage manager who has some experience working within Fringe festivals, with all their unique problems stresses! We want someone who enjoys working as part of a collaborative team, and who has an interest in the themes the production addresses. We will also be requiring the stage manager to act as a technical operator during the performances.

We will be carrying out R&D on the project over 5 dates in March, specific dates tbc but they will be between 7th and 18th March. Rehearsals will take place over ten days in April, specific dates tbc and we have ten performances in May. Performance dates are 6th – 8th May and 30th May – 5th June, all performances 9:30pm – 10:50pm. Some rehearsals may take place in London depending on where the majority of the cast and team end up being based.

This is an expenses only position. If you’re interested in the position please get in touch with Ellen on ellen.carr42@gmail.com to tell us a bit more about you and why you’re interested in this role.